EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Claudio Reyna is eating chocolate chip ice cream. His cleats have been traded for a pair of dress shoes. His red, white and blue jersey exchanged for pleated khakis and a navy blazer.
The former U.S. captain is sitting on the club level of Rentschler Field, watching many of his former teammates prepare for the first World Cup the 36-year-old won't be a part of in 16 years.
"It's a lot worse to watch than it is to be out there," Reyna says. "Up here, you see things and you simply can't do anything. You feel helpless."
But don't be mistaken. Reyna likes his life away from soccer. After retiring from international competition in 2006 and professionally two years later, he was recently named the youth technical director of U.S. Soccer. That means the future of the sport in this country is -- to a certain extent -- his responsibility.
"To me, it's so important to put something together in our country to work with the youth players and develop the youth game in this country," he said. "That's the foundation."
Reyna said he is working with U.S. Soccer to put together a vision to accomplish that goal. The first step, he said, is to improve the quality of youth coaching in this country.
"That's where we need to start," he said.
On Tuesday night, with his wife and two oldest children by his side, he sat back with his legs folded and looked like a man who felt relaxed. He watched the game against the Czech Republic like a fan -- a fan with a level of knowledge that only a three-time World Cup performer possesses.
"Bad ball," he said after one U.S. turnover.
"This is getting exciting," he said after both teams started pushing up and down the field in the second half.
And then, when Martin Fenin of the Czech Republic scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute, he shook his head and pointed to the spot on the field three touches earlier where a missed tackle by Heath Pearce left the defense vulnerable, creating the opportunity for Fenin.
"And that's something your average fan wouldn't notice," he said.
Reyna, who now calls Westchester County outside New York City home, said he has received several invitations to various events to watch the U.S. face England on June 12. But the only place he plans on being is in his own house with family and a few close friends.
"I'm sure it will be a little emotional," he said. "That's probably when it will finally hit me that I'm not out there. But I'm looking forward to it -- what an incredible match, an incredible opportunity for soccer in this country."